The Exodus

Cubans have been fleeing in greater numbers since the Aug. 5 riots in Havana that prompted Cuban leader Fidel Castro to threaten another Mariel. President Clinton last week ended a 28-year policy of granting automatic political asylum to Cuban refugees, ordering the Coast Guard to intercept Cuban boat people and take them to Guantanamo.

Cuba Fact Sheet

Population: 10 million

Population density: 241 inhabitants per square mile


Area: 42,803 square miles

Coastline: 2,231 miles

A Hard Life

Gross national product per capita:


1992: $1,370

1990: $2,000

People in poverty: 900,000

People without safe water: 200,000


People without sanitation: 900,000

Malnourished children under five: 75,000

Children dying before age five: 3,000

Children not in school: 66,000


Adult literacy: 1992: 95% (1970: 87%)

Education spending as % of GNP: 6.6% in 1990 (5% in 1960)

Life expectancy: 1992: 75.6 years (1960 63.8 years)

The Life-Risking Trip


The journey: 90 miles

Typical crossing time: Three to five days

The risks: Rafters must cut across the powerful Gulf Stream current, which flows at a speed of 2 m.p.h.. It they fail, the Gulf Stream can carry them up the Florida coast, raising the risk of death from exposure and dehydration.

Failure rate: Refugee aid groups in Florida estimate that at least 25% of rafters do not survive the journey.


Policing The Water

Coast Guard cutters have set up a picket line in the Straits of Florida to intercept Cubans. Form the cutters, refugees are transferred to Navy ships for the two-day trip to Guantanamo. Here is a list of the vessels involved:

Coast Guard in area (intercepting rafts and boats headed for Florida)

32 full-sized cutters


35 smaller boats

14 search aircraft

Navy Ships in area (ferrying refugees to Guantanamo)

1 guided-missile cruiser


2 landing-ship docks

8 guided-missile frigates

2 oilers

Navy ships en route


1 hospital ship

Cubans rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard

1983: 47

1984: 19


1985: 43

1986: 27

1987: 44

1988: 59


1989: 391

1990: 467

1991: 2,203

1992: 2,557


1993: 3,656

As of Aug. 22, 1994: 13,097

The U.S. Foothold on Cuban Soil

The U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a relic of the burst of American expansionism that began with the Spanish-American War. Today, it is the only U.S. base in a communist country.


Size: 45 square miles of land and water.

Personnel: 6,600 U.S. military and civilian personnel.

Reinforcement dispatched: 7,000 to 8,000 extra soldiers are expected to be sent.

Dependents evacuated: The approximately 1,700 Navy dependents were scheduled to be evacuated late this week.


Military value: A key training site for U.S. warships and forces in the Caribbean. Provides 10-minute access to deep water for large ships. Ideal electronic surveillance post for monitoring Cuba military and other activities in the Caribbean.

Lease agreement with Cuba: United States sends Cuba a check for $4,085 a year, which Fidel Castro refuses to cash because his government does not recognize the agreement allowing U.S. access to the base.

Key Dates

1903: United States takes over land after lease is negotiated after Spanish-American War.


1934: Treaty guarantees use of base forever unless America decides to withdraw.

1959: Travel between base and Cuba cut off after Castro revolution.

1962: Several thousand reinforcements sent during Cuban missile crisis; civilians evacuated.

1979: United States orders special maneuvers when U.S. intelligence services claim to have discovered additional Soviet troops.


1991: Moscow pulls out 11,000 Soviet troops and military advisers.

Sources: Human Development Report, 1994; Times staff and wire reports.